Susan Abulhawa

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Susan Abulhawa
Abulhawa in 2010
Abulhawa in 2010
Born (1970-06-03) June 3, 1970 (age 52)
OccupationAuthor, activist
NationalityPalestinian American
Notable worksMornings in Jenin

Susan Abulhawa (Arabic: سوزان أبو الهوى, born June 3, 1970) is a Palestinian American writer and human rights activist.[1] She is the author of several books, and the founder of a non-governmental organization, Playgrounds for Palestine.[2] She lives in Pennsylvania.[3] Her first novel, Mornings in Jenin, was translated into 32 languages and sold more than a million copies. Her second novel, The Blue Between Sky And Water, was sold in 19 languages before its release, and was published in English in 2015. Against the Loveless World, her third novel, was released in August 2020, also to critical acclaim.[4][5][6]

Early life and education[edit]

Abulhawa's parents, born in At-Tur in Jerusalem, were refugees of the 1967 war. Her father, according to one account[citation needed], "was expelled at gunpoint; her mother, who was studying in Germany at the time, was unable to return and the couple reunited in Jordan before moving to Kuwait, where Abulhawa was born in 1970."[7]

Her parents split shortly after her birth and Abulhawa's childhood was turbulent, moving between Kuwait, the United States, Jordan, and Palestine. She lived in Dar el Tifl, a Jerusalem orphanage, for three years until the age of 13, when Israel expelled her for not having proper documentation, even though her family's history can be traced to two villages dating back to the first century.

At 13, Abulhawa came to the US, where she lived with her father briefly before entering the foster care system in the US. She remained a ward of the court until she emancipated herself at the age of 17 and finished high school, college, and graduate school on her own.

Prior to writing her first book, Abulhawa had a successful career in biomedical science, where she worked as a researcher for a pharmaceutical company.

In addition to three novels, in 2013 Abulhawa published a collection of poetry entitled My Voice Sought the Wind.[8]

Abulhawa is the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine,[9] an NGO that advocates for Palestinian children by building playgrounds in Palestine and UN refugee camps in Lebanon. The first playground was erected in early 2002.[10]


She is involved in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and as a speaker for Al Awda, the Right to Return coalition.[3]

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)[edit]

Abulhawa is signatory to the boycott campaign against Israel, including the cultural boycott. She gave the keynote address at one of the first campus BDS conferences at the University of Pennsylvania.[11]

Abulhawa sees the BDS movement, according to a 2012 profile, "as one of the most effective ways to promote Palestinian rights and achieve justice against Israel's ongoing ethnic cleansing."[12]

She compares Israel to apartheid South Africa.[13] In 2013, Abulhawa declined an invitation from Al Jazeera to participate in a discussion about the Israel-Palestine issue with several Israelis, including some who were highly critical of Israeli policy.[14]

Mornings in Jenin[edit]

Abulhawa's novel Mornings in Jenin, which was published in 2010 by Bloomsbury, has been translated into Arabic by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing.[3] It has also been translated into at least two dozen other languages and has become an international bestseller.[15]

The French author and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy called Mornings in Jenin "a concentration of anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish clichés masquerading as fiction."[16] Abulhawa responded by dismissing Levy as a "French pop star of philosophy and intellectual elitism" and accusing him of "name-calling": "He simply slaps on the word 'anti-Semitism' to discredit any negative portrayal of Israel.... Mr. Levy accuses us of 'demonizing Israel', when in fact, all we do is pull back the curtain, however slightly, to show a dark truth he wishes to keep hidden. I suspect that Mr Levy feels, as most Jewish supporters of Israel do, that he is more entitled to my grandfather's farms than I am. After all, that is really the foundation of Israel, isn't it?"[17]

Filmworks Dubai bought the film rights to Mornings in Jenin, planning to begin production in late 2013. Anna Soler-Pont, head of the Pontas agency, which sold the film rights to the novel, said: "This is going to be a special project. There aren't any epic films on Palestine yet."[18] However, the producer passed away shortly after and the rights reverted back to her. Another producer recently optioned the rights for a TV series.

Other professional activities[edit]

In addition to her fiction writing and activism, Abulhawa occasionally worked as a medical writer creating articles for peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals.[12]



  • Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury, 2010, ISBN 978-1608190461).
  • The Blue Between Sky and Water (Bloomsbury, 2015, ISBN 978-1632862228).
  • Against the Loveless World (Bloomsbury, 2020, ISBN 978-1526618801).


  • Shattered Illusions, anthology (Amal Press, 2002) [19]
  • Searching Jenin, anthology (Cune Press, 2003).[19]
  • Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home anthology (2012)[20]
  • My Voice Sought The Wind, poetry collection (Just World Books, November 2013)[21]
  • This Is Not A Border: Reportage & Reflections from the Palestine Festival of Literature (2017)[22]


  • The Leeway Foundation Edna Andrade award for fiction and creative non-fiction.[23]
  • Best Books Award for Historic Fiction.[24]
  • MEMO Palestine Book Award.[25]
  • Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Award.[26]
  • Aspen Words Award Finalist
  • Arab American Museum Award for Fiction
  • MEMO Palestine Book Award
  • Long listed for Rathsbones Folio Prize.
  • Finalist for the 2020 Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award.[27]


  1. ^ Rhodes, Giulia (June 6, 2015). "Building playgrounds in Palestine: 'This is their special place and refuge'". The Guardian.
  2. ^ "Susan Abulhawa". Al Jazeera.
  3. ^ a b c Yaqoob, Tahira (April 26, 2012). "Arab-American novelist fights for justice in Palestine". The National.
  4. ^ Khadivi, Laleh (August 26, 2020). "A Beautiful, Urgent Novel of the Palestinian Struggle". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  5. ^ "Fiction Book Review: Against the Loveless World by Susan Abulhawa. Atria, $27 (376p) ISBN 978-1-982137-03-8". Retrieved July 13, 2021.
  6. ^ MORNINGS IN JENIN | Kirkus Reviews.
  7. ^ This is a contradiction with the first sentence : "born in Jebel al Tur in Jerusalem"; according to other sources (her French editors), she was born in 1967 ...
  8. ^ "Susan Abulhawa's My Voice Sought The Wind – Poetry Review". Palestine Chronicle. October 25, 2013.
  9. ^ Playgrounds for Palestine
  10. ^ Adams, John (March 2003), "Playgrounds for Palestine Brings Playground for Peace" (PDF), Today's Playground, retrieved October 13, 2009
  11. ^ Robbins, Annie (February 15, 2012). "Out of the Ballpark: Susan Abulhawa's speech to the PennBDS conference". Mondoweiss.
  12. ^ a b Bland, Sally (March 27, 2012). "Susan Abulhawa: Writing for Palestine". The Jordan Times.
  13. ^ Abulhawa, Susan (2009). "Palestinians Will Never Forget". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. American Educational Trust. Retrieved August 17, 2015.
  14. ^ Weiss, Philip (May 19, 2013). "Abulhawa declines to balance out several Israelis in Al Jazeera forum on Nakba". Mondoweiss.
  15. ^ Badih, Samia (May 4, 2012). "Palestine on Her Mind". Gulf News.
  16. ^ Levy, Bernard-Henri (December 3, 2010). "The Antisemitism to Come". Huffington Post.
  17. ^ Abulhawa, Susan (December 22, 2010). "The Antisemitism to Come? Hardly". Huffington Post.
  18. ^ Evans, Chris (November 17, 2011). "Filmworks Dubai Takes Rights to Best-Selling Novel Mornings in Jenin". Screen Daily.
  19. ^ a b Bloomsbury Biography
  20. ^ Seeking Palestine: New Palestinian Writing on Exile and Home. ISBN 8188965731.
  21. ^ "My Voice Sought the Wind".
  22. ^ "This Is Not a Border: Reportage & Reflection from the Palestine Festival of Literature". Bloomsbury.
  23. ^ "Susan Abulhawa EAA '03". Leeway Foundation.
  24. ^ "Susan Abulhawa in conversation with Gillian Slovo, Part of Shubbak Festival at the British Library". The British Library. July 16, 2017.
  25. ^ "MEMO Book Awards 2013 honours Rashid Khalidi, Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson". Palestine Book Awards. November 14, 2013.
  26. ^ "All 4 Palestine | Model Role Details".
  27. ^ "Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa's 'Against the Loveless World' nominated for US literary award". Arab News. March 3, 2021. Retrieved March 3, 2021.

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